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|by by E. Fleming Shaw,
Nutrition and Education Committee
|Whenever I move from one
city to another, I make a list of lessons I’ve learned from the city
I’m leaving. When I moved here from Portland, Oregon two of the lessons
I took with me were to enjoy beautiful weather to its fullest and to
tread lightly on our Earth. Portland lives under an immense rain cloud
for eight months of the year, so its citizens make sure to take
advantage of every drop of sun when it’s out. I believe Portland’s
reputation as an environmentally conscious city precedes this article.
While taking advantage of all of summer’s glory may be the easier of
the two lessons I learned, treading lightly can be just as easy and
enjoyable as long as planning and thought goes into the process.
The first step for dining al fresco is deciding on a place. For some of
us that means only having to look as far as our own back or front yard.
For others of us, in city apartments, we may have to venture a bit
farther. Parks of all varieties surround us, but since we’re trying to
reduce our impact think first about parks which can be easily accessed
by walking, biking or taking public transportation. When traveling by
car is the only option, make sure to carpool with other picnic goers.
After arriving at the picnic location, put as much thought into
choosing an eating spot as was put into getting there. Sticking to
designated picnic areas ensures that you won’t be upsetting any plant
or animal habitats.
The planning of the menu is always the most fun part of any event for
me. The first thing I like to consider is where the ingredients came
from. Using produce that was grown locally, seasonally, and in a
sustainable manner has a much smaller environmental footprint than
produce which has been flown in from Argentina. In addition to the
Coop, we in the Capital District are lucky enough to be surrounded by
numerous local artisans and farmers’ markets. Local produce, breads,
cheeses and even wines are never in short supply.
Another factor to consider when planning your feast is how the food
will be transported and served. Foods that can be served at room
temperature will use fewer resources than those that need to be kept
chilled. Some food items, like a local Brie or Camembert-style cheese
are even better when a little warm and melty. Also, foods such as
fruits, nuts and sandwiches don’t require a lot of packaging, nor do
they require the use of any utensils to eat.
Mason jars are one of the most versatile things I own, and despite
their weight, are great to take along on picnics. Mason jars are nearly
indestructible, last forever, and come in a large array of sizes and
styles. Smaller jars can hold single serving sizes of all varieties of
salads or summer soups and even the latest trend—cupcakes (check out a
recipe at www.thekitchn.com/cupcakesin- a-jar-the-latest-c-142206).
Larger jars can be filled with homemade punches, juices or even plain
old fashioned water. Freezing the drinks ahead of time means that they
can keep other food items cold (helpful if the food will be made and
packed several hours before being eaten), and will be defrosted, but
still cool by the time it’s ready to eat. If freezing liquid in the
jars just make sure to leave headspace to allow for the liquid to
expand. Mason jars surely aren’t the only option, and a quick survey of
your cabinets will probably produce a plethora of container options.
If the hunt for containers leaves you empty-handed, Websites like
Freecycle or Craigslist are great places to find used containers, as
are the many yard sales this time of year. The Co-op also sells all
manner of supplies for packing food for a picnic. The products at the
Co-op range from disposable products like World Centric which are
derived from plant sources rather than oil, to semi-disposable products
like the Preserve brand plates made in the USA of recycled materials,
to the incredibly sturdy stainless steel to-go containers like
Now that we’ve covered all the bases, get out there and have fun! But,
remember the most important rule of any outdoor event: Pack it in, pack
it out. Of course if you want to get a gold star in eco-stewardship,
you can always bring a few extra bags with you and pick up anyone
else’s trash you pass along the way.
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